A History of the Crepe Myrtle: Crepe Myrtle hybridizers missed it?

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A History of the Crepe Myrtle

By dave
July 14, 2015

Standing on a thin carpet of fallen blooms, with a canopy of color above me, I immediately fell in love with the Crepe Myrtle tree, and since then have set out to collect them all.

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Name: LariAnn Garner
south Florida, USA
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LariAnn
Jul 14, 2015 8:16 AM CST
Excellent and very informative article! If I ever get tired of hybridizing aroids, I might try hybridizing the tropical Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa) with some as described in this article. I'm guessing either no one has tried it yet or they did try but didn't get success. In any event, that wouldn't stop me as I've tried crosses many times and met with failure until one day - success! "When in doubt, do the cross!"
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[Last edited by LariAnn - Jul 14, 2015 8:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Ashton & Terry
Jones, OK (Zone 7a)
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kidfishing
Jul 14, 2015 8:34 AM CST
Sounds interesting.
Anyone know of a good article about hybridizing crepe myrtles?
Kidfishing
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 14, 2015 9:51 AM CST

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LariAnn I'd love to see more cold hardiness brought into the L. speciosa. We can't grow them up here, which is the reason I suspect we don't see much breeding work in that species.

Ashton, there doesn't seem to be much published information about hybridizing crepe myrtles, but it should be a straightforward process. The pistils and anthers are fairly separate from each other on the flower, much like daylilies. I grow a lot of crepe myrtle seedlings but have never intentionally crossed any.
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
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blue23rose
Jul 14, 2015 12:10 PM CST
Really enjoyed reading about the history of the crepe myrtle, Dave. It is a beautiful plant and since it blooms later in the season, is a welcome spot of color in the middle of summer.

I was wondering about growing from seeds. I have crepe myrtle seedlings popping up all around where my 'Pink Velour' and 'Victor Red' are. However, once they get large enough to bloom, the blooms do not look like the parent, so I assumed that these do not come true from seed. I guess if I wanted, I could take tip cuttings, but I don't mind the different colors. I have three seedling very close together that I let go and now I have pink, purple, and white growing so close together that I am hoping their trunks will look like one plant someday. Just a pipe dream probably.

Last year's hard winter really took a toll on my crepe myrtles. My Pink Velour and Pocomoke look just terrible right now. Just hoping they will come back enough to get them back to normal.
Vickie
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 14, 2015 12:58 PM CST

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Vickie, it's true that the seedlings usually come back with quite a bit of variability to them and that's definitely part of the fun for me. Smiling I started seeds of 'Ebony Flame' and only about 10% came back with black leaves. They all look very different from each other and I'm looking forward to seeing how different they all turn out to be when they bloom.

Ebony Flame seedlings:
Thumb of 2015-07-14/dave/e96586

Name: Ashton & Terry
Jones, OK (Zone 7a)
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kidfishing
Jul 14, 2015 2:18 PM CST
dave said:
Ashton, there doesn't seem to be much published information about hybridizing crepe myrtles, but it should be a straightforward process. The pistils and anthers are fairly separate from each other on the flower, much like daylilies. I grow a lot of crepe myrtle seedlings but have never intentionally crossed any.


Dave,
I have searched and searched and have found nothing...
There is one article about "Developing new Crepemyrtles", but the link doesn't work. Sad
http://drcarlwhitcomb.com/The_Info.html

I have noticed the pollen and pistils, maybe I'll just have to try.
I would think that marking each bloom that you crossed would be a chore, there are hundreds of blooms on each stem...
The pollen is hard as a rock, maybe it's needs to be dried for a day...
All the people that do Crepemyrtles are botanists I guess.
Kidfishing
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 14, 2015 2:50 PM CST

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kidfishing said:All the people that do Crepemyrtles are botanists I guess.


That seems to be true, with the exception of the backyard enthusiasts who get happy accidents - crosses in their seedlings. All my crepe myrtles are pollinated in the open and there does seem to be some occasional crossing. (I have a Zuni seedling with black leaves. It must have crossed with the nearby Ebony Flame.)
Name: Ashton & Terry
Jones, OK (Zone 7a)
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kidfishing
Jul 14, 2015 2:55 PM CST
Most plants anybody can do. Crepemyrtles must be harder.?

Here Crepemyrtles come up everywhere, I assume they are seedlings because they come up all different flower colors.
My two black diamond ones have not done well, they are short and haven't bloomed since I bought them.
Kidfishing
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
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blue23rose
Jul 14, 2015 5:13 PM CST
Cool picture of your babies, Dave. I'm sure it will be fun to see what they look like when they bloom Smiling
Vickie
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Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jul 14, 2015 9:01 PM CST
Dave - Great article! Lots of history and current information. Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up

Well, you know I have wanted a red blooming Crape Myrtle. Checked all over and no one had any locally. Figured I might have to try and get it online (for probably a small fortune, which I didn't really want to do). Today, I walked into the garden center at my local Home Depot and guess what I found????

Black Diamond "Crimson Red". They had about a dozen of them in the back of the garden center. They caught my eye immediately. I bought one. They were $12.98 for a 4' plant. I couldn't believe it! Exactly what I wanted right here in town! What luck!! My husband likes the one I got so much, he told me to go back and get another one as a back-up. So I will do that tomorrow! Big Grin

Now I know that the Black Diamond label is the "other" company selling Dr. Cecil Pounders Ebony brand Crape Myrtles. And I know that BD Crimson Red is actually 'Ebony Fire'. Sad that others are going to be making a fortune off his breeding work. For me, though, I found what I wanted at a price I could afford.

Now I have a question for you. If I wanted to add photos of mine to the Plant Database, should I put them under Ebony Fire or Crimson Red?

Also, there seems to be two distinct trunks in the pot:

Thumb of 2015-07-15/beckygardener/5c5362

Should I split them or keep them together?

How do you weave several trunks together?

I want to try to grow the plant(s) as standards. From the label, it says they grow to about 10' tall and 8' wide. Perfect size for where I want to plant it (them).

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[Last edited by beckygardener - Jul 15, 2015 7:28 AM (+)]
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 15, 2015 8:00 AM CST

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Congratulations on scoring an Ebony Fire! Thumbs up This is one nice thing about the Black Diamond people: they are getting these crepe myrtles out to garden centers and that's a good thing.

We have one entry for this plant:

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Ebony Fire')

Notice the "Crimson Red" name is given under the "Also sold as" field.

I would absolutely split that plant into two. That's 2 plants for the price of one. Thumbs up
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jul 15, 2015 8:49 AM CST
Dave - Thanks for answering my questions. Thank You!

I am going today to purchase another one, but will split the two in the pot I currently have. I think the other pots also had two. I might wind up with 4 plants if they all survive. That would be cool!!!

I really do like this ebony series of crape myrtles! They really are stunning plants with that dark foliage! Really unusual. Hopefully I can successfully get them to grow into tree form. That may be tricky if we have a cold Winter which might kill the trunk and branches to the ground. I've had that happen before with previous crapes.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 15, 2015 11:17 AM CST

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I also love these ebony series crepe myrtles. They are my new favorites and I'm having lots of fun with them. By this point I have them all and they are just lovely. The blush 'Ebony Glow' is particularly beautiful. In your zone 9b I can't imagine you'll have a problem with winter dieback.
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jul 15, 2015 12:26 PM CST
Dave - If I had a large piece of property, I'd certainly have a few more (of the different colored blooms). Not sure how long you've had yours, but what is the growth rate on yours? I am wondering if the 10' height is accurate?
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 15, 2015 12:29 PM CST

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I've had 'Ebony Flame' since October of 2012 and it's now about 6 feet tall. Nobody knows what their final height will be yet.
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jul 15, 2015 12:45 PM CST
That's what I had concluded in my reading about them .... "height unknown". Though the Black Diamond tag says at maturity it would be 10' tall and 8' wide. I hope that is true!

How tall was yours when you got it? Mine is about 3 1/2' tall in a 1 gallon nursery pot. I have heard they grow fast under their desired growing conditions. Are you growing yours as a standard or as a shrub?

Thanks for sharing your experience and info about them. It took another year or so to make it over here to the eastern part of the USA, so it really IS new for all of us east coast southerners! Hilarious! Thumbs up
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Jul 15, 2015 1:36 PM CST

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This is mine from a couple weeks ago:



I'm letting it take its natural form, as is my usual habit. It was about 18" tall when I got it 3 years ago.
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jul 15, 2015 3:32 PM CST
Dave - Thanks for sharing your personal experience growing Ebony Flame. Yours is beautiful!

I went down and got another one. I noticed that the price on some of the larger containers of this same plant were $19.95, but they were not as tall. More like starter shrubs in 3 gallon pots. I'd rather have a tree. I don't think folks yet know what they are as they've never seen anything like them. It has been raining so I can't get out there to plant the one in the front yard yet. It will be on the very edge of my septic drain field and will likely do very well there. All the plants I've grown in the front lawn have done really well. Natural underground fertilizer, I suppose! Whistling Thumbs up Hilarious! Hilarious! Hilarious!
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Name: Lin
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plantladylin
Jul 17, 2015 2:09 PM CST
Dave, loved this article on the history of Crepe Myrtle! Thumbs up

Becky, I saw a bunch of the dark leaf Crepe Myrtles at one of our local Home Depot Garden Centers last week too. I didn't get one because (I think) they were all labeled Best Red (Ebony Flame) and I already have that one. They were all really good sized and good looking plants and I'd hoped to find one in the bunch with the blush or white blooms. I'll have to stop in there again in the next couple of days to check the name again, if it is Crimson Red (Ebony Fire) I'll have to get one. Maybe soon they will carry some of the other colors. I'm really wanting the Ebony Glow (Blush) or Ebony & Ivory (Pure White) because those colors look really outstanding against the dark leaves! There are a couple of new Black Diamond Crepe's out for 2015 that are pretty too: http://www.blackdiamondblooms.com/home The Red Hot (Ebony Embers) and Shell Pink are gorgeous!
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Jul 17, 2015 3:14 PM CST

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Lin, thank you! I'm glad you liked the article. Smiling

I was at Home Depot in Tyler, TX today and they had these in two places. In one place they had the Black Diamond branded place (as per the usual) but they also had a separate display with the same cultivars being promoted as 'Ebony Flame' along with a tag talking about how they were developed by the USNA. I thought that was great.

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